The Criminal, the Judge, and the Public: A Psychological Analysis

The Criminal, the Judge, and the Public: A Psychological Analysis

The Criminal, the Judge, and the Public: A Psychological Analysis

The Criminal, the Judge, and the Public: A Psychological Analysis

Excerpt

It is no longer necessary to try to justify the claims psychoanalysis makes in understanding the mentally sick and in extending to them therapeutic help.

Yet, not so many centuries ago, hysteria still belonged to a domain other than medicine; it was a phenomenon on which only the law courts were supposed to be competent to pass judgment. The woman suffering from hysteria was called a witch and she was punished as such; the punishment was severe, severer than the one meted out today to a murderer. It is not improbable that our treatment of the criminal will undergo a similar change in the future. The very fact that in "doubtful" cases today a medical expert, i.e., a psychiatrist, is usually asked by the court for an opinion, is the first step in this direction. A deeper knowledge of the psychology of the criminal would increase considerably the number of such "doubtful" cases. Yet our plea for a better understanding of the criminal seems to require some justification. Is not the criminal a public menace? Should not the interest we have in him be limited to an endeavor to make him harmless and to make the punishment imposed upon him serve as an example to others? Thus, a deeper study of the criminal personality might at first appear as nothing but a luxury, a manner of squandering one's scientific zeal. Is it not true that Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner? Is it not true that the psychologist who strives to understand the criminal must at first put himself in the criminal's place, or as we say in psychoanalysis, he must identify himself with . . .

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